Most Creative Bookshelf Designs Ever

Anita Book Shelf Design Love

With the spread of portable electronic media, readers have been provided with a different way of interacting with their personal libraries.  More than ever before, it has become a positive choice to own a physical copy of any book when a digital version is available at the click of a button.  As the relationship between book and reader has changed, so too has the role of the bookcase.  More than just a piece of furniture, a bookcase is a unique combination of form and function; it is a metaphor for the reader’s individuality.  All the books and baubles on a reader’s bookshelf reflect their interests and quirks; they are little pieces that are put on display – a window into the reader’s personality.

It should be no surprise, then, that enterprising artists and architects have devoted time and effort (not to mention creative brainpower) towards the creation of mould-breaking bookcases designed to capture the imagination.  These unique designs are as inspired as the graphic novels, timeless classics, and occasional trashy romance they’re meant to display.  So, put away your Allen key, we’re leaving IKEA and taking a walk on the wild side; it’s time to have a look at the Most Creative Bookshelf Designs Ever.

Pacman Bookshelf designed by Mirko Ginepro
Pacman Bookshelf designed by Mirko Ginepro

The inspiration behind this first design should be obvious to most people old enough to buy their own furniture, although undoubtedly most appreciated by a demographic of vintage gamers.  Pacman can now be employed as storage for more than just infinite amounts of white pellets; this cool, retro-themed bookshelf provides a stylish way to display books, classic gaming consoles, or modern electronics in a clear and open space.  Made out of varnished wood and wall-mounted, this design would flatter someone with extra wall-space.  Although it is available in other colours, surely Pacman doesn’t need a makeover after all these years?

 

Raw Edges - Hole in the floor - Two shelves
Hole In The Floor designed by Raw Edges

This is not a design likely to be found at a local furniture store; in fact, this was a private commission from Raw Edges Design Studio back in 2010.  These shelves are eccentric and extremely stylish; the concept of drawers disappearing into floor evoking an instant reaction of “How cool is that!?”.  This design is conceived of as a showpiece first and foremost, taking away from any practical usage as a storage unit.  However, whether you imagine drawers of knowledge descending into the depths, or Fantasia-esque living furniture popping up and down at will, these talking pieces definitely exude character and class.

 

Anita Book Shelf Design Love
Anita Shelf designed by Ricard Mollon – Quattria

The Anita collection by artist Ricard Mollon is the pinnacle of self-expression.  In this version, the owner clearly felt the word LOVE was appropriate (you can customize it to your own taste), and we can only assume this is in reference to their love of haphazard book stacking.  This design is a very chic concept, appropriate for showpiece reads and conversation pieces and you can customize the shape according to the layout of the room. That being said, if useful shelving is what you’re after I’d suggest staying away from words with too many Vs.

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Round Book Shelf Designed by David Garcia
Round Book Shelf designed by Architect – David Garcia

A giant cylinder is definitely not most people’s default idea of a traditional bookshelf, especially one so disturbingly reminiscent of a hamster wheel.  Eye-catching, to say the least, this circular unit definitely makes its presence felt in any room, providing the idea of an unbroken circle of knowledge (or 360 degrees of Garfield comics, if that’s your style).  Again, there is the slight issue of constraint; it would be hard to accommodate anything other than books, or even books too variant in size, but the bookcase itself is so awesome that it doesn’t matter.  Still, one can’t help but feel it would be perfect if the next design were installed right in the middle…

The Book Seat Designed by fishtnk
The Book Seat designed by fishtnk

Seating and storage in one piece of furniture, The Book Seat is both functional and convenient.  Books?  Check.  Magazines?  Check.  But why stop there?  Snacks, TV remotes, series 1-4 of Breaking Bad – this design is a one-stop shop for relaxation.  By the looks of it, it would probably help your posture, too.

 

Tetris Book Shelf Designed by Eleftherios
Tetris Book Shelf designed by Eleftherios Ambatzis

The Tetris bookshelf is a modern, conceptual design created by Greek artist and architect Eleftherios Ambatzis.  Another piece that says as much about the owner as the books it contains, the design is very sharp and was not created with spatial conservation in mind.  This is not somewhere to put your old copies of TV Guide, nor the little gift shop souvenir your aunt brought you back from her last vacation; only cool things are allowed here, like a leather-bound edition of Moby Dick and a signed copy of Sean Connery’s autobiography.

 

Corner Tree Designed by Abhinav Dapke
Corner Tree designed by Abhinav Dapke

This sleek, simple design is both a practical and eye-catching piece of shelving.  With a basic, minimalist structure, it nonetheless maximizes the amount of storage space available by ingeniously utilizing the most underrated facet of a room – the corner.  One could conceivably sit any size book or trinket on one of the shelves, and despite its subtle design, it somehow manages to draw the eye.

 

Console Bookshelf design by Katz
Console Bookshelf designed by Katz

Another piece with a very sleek feel to it, the Console Bookshelf is a self-contained seating and shelving unit.  The storage aspect is well-covered, neither books nor any other item worth displaying would be really out of place, but the real talking point is the built-in lounging space.  The concept is familiar, but the design is modern and eccentric, and it would be hard to imagine this piece of furniture sitting comfortably in just any living room.

 

TarGetBooks Shelf Design by Mebrure Oral
TarGetBooks Shelf designed by Mebrure Oral

This wall-mounted bookshelf pays homage the classic to read list, and manages to appear stylish while still giving a homey vibe.  It’s probably not big enough to store anyone’s entire library; this piece is definitely a showcase for all the classy foreign authors and trending titles, just so guests can see how stimulatingly well-read you are.  It definitely ticks off the functionality criteria, though, as now instead of scribbling down to reads on a post-it note and sticking it on the fridge, you can tuck the troublesome tomes right on the wall.  I’m sure they won’t sit there for too long, right?

 

Piegato One designed by Matthias Ries Industrial Design
Piegato One designed by Matthias Ries Industrial Design

By far the most practical design on the list, the Piegato One is also probably one of the more conservative.  Who needs garish aesthetics when maximizing wall-space is just so handy?  While still charmingly colourful, the main design feature of the Piegato One is the available option of folding it back against the wall when not in use.  It’s not bulky or overly difficult to install, which means the reader can easily set up a layering effect, as pictured above.

 

ABC Book Shelf by Arredamenti Saporiti
ABC Book Shelf designed by Arredamenti Saporiti

A case with a message, the ABC Book Shelf is another customizable series, this time by Italian design company Arredamenti Saporiti.  Each letter is a removable cube so you can arrange your bookcase to your own taste, using any combination of number or letter.  Keeping with the theme of expressive bookcases, it seems a charming idea to have your own personal message staring down at you every time you start or finish a book.

 

Quitante by 20.87
Quitante designed by 20.87

Anyone really wishing to look deeply into the design of this movable shelf might possibly describe it as a clever metaphor for portable electronic devices and the handheld music and literature libraries available to the modern user.  The Quitante is a compartmental bookshelf, a simplistic design witch an attached leash and set on wheels.  Finished your book, but too comfortable to get up and walk to your bookshelf in the next room?  Problem solved.

 

Vaco by Dennys Tormen and Glauco Bernardes
Vaco designed by Dennys Tormen and Glauco Bernardes

If you’re looking for a conversation piece, I really don’t think any bookcase can match a giant coloured cow.  These cattle-themed Vaco bookshelves really capture the idea of ‘displaying one’s individuality.’  Although they are spatially impractical, and risk drawing the attention even more than what they contain, I’m sure there are reading rooms or libraries in which these accessories would be completely at home.  Somewhere.

 

SUM Shelves by Peter Marigold
SUM Shelves designed by Peter Marigold

One of the most stylish of the wall-mounted bookcases, the SUM Shelves feature a number of asymmetrical boxes designed to hold all manner of books at outrageous angles.  Each box stands self-contained and separate, commanding its own focus, while still remaining a tangible part of the whole.  All in all, the design gives an impression of controlled chaos, a dichotomy of disordered order.  Or, you know… it just looks cool.

 

Tree designed by Design Artist
Tree designed by Design Artist

Aesthetically appealing (and my personal favourite), the beautiful Tree design is a stylish way of storing and displaying your collection.  Very classy, it is spatially easy to accommodate, and can complement most interior design palettes.  While perhaps lacking in the ordered aspect of book storage, someone looking for a more artsy and quirky design would definitely appreciate this model.

 

Bookwave designed by ilio
Bookwave designed by ilio

Talk about casual, this last creative design is called the Bookwave, and it is the least traditional of all the bookcase designs.  Slightly restrictive in terms of what can be put in, the major positive factor is that it is extremely spatially conservative.  The only trouble is it seems difficult to identify the titles without removing them.  Still, for someone with a laid-back ambience, this could be just the perfect complement.

Whether you’re looking for something sleek and modern, or something artsy and eccentric, the concept of the bookcase has evolved from the traditional horizontally shelved, rectangular, lacquered oak monstrosity that was owned by your grandma and is an absolute nightmare to move up and down stairs.  It is only fitting that the effort one puts into creating a truly individual home should be extended to such an important part of what actually makes it a home.  If you can create an environment that really inspires the imagination, what could be a more appropriate place to house the fruits of that creativity?

Best Graphic Design Books

Are you a graphic designer looking for inspiration in all the wrong places? Need to get those creative juices flowing? Or just simply looking for a beautiful book to display on your shelf? Here are my top ten of the best graphic design books to get you started.

[top10 position=”10″ bookname=”100 Ideas that Changed Graphic Design” authorname=”Steven Heller & Veronique Vienne” publisher=”Laurence King Publishers” pages=”216″ amazonusa=”1856697940″ amazonuk=”1856697940″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

A book that should have a firm place on any aspiring graphic designer’s shelf, 100 Ideas That Changed Graphic Design takes you on a whistle-stop tour through the defining moments in the industry putting them in historical context and illustrated through a collection of beautiful images. The chronologically ordered list of abstract concepts ranges from various types of typography to ideas such as the use of the colours red and black, visual puns, pixelation and the sociological impact of propaganda. Being limited to just 100 concepts means that some things are not covered in as much detail but this is a brilliant starting point for reference.

[top10 position=”9″ bookname=”The Graphic Design Exercise Book: Creative Briefs to Enhance Your Skills and Develop Your Portfolio” authorname=”Carolyn Knight & Jessica Glaser” publisher=”HOW Books” pages=”256″ amazonusa=”1600614639″ amazonuk=”1600614639″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

This collection of creative briefs is intended to inspire both up and coming and experienced designers. This book teaches new techniques through practical exercises whereby readers are asked to produce designs for different clients from different sectors with tasks ranging from packaging to web design. The book is brimming with useful tips, suggestions and solutions to the various briefs. A perfect book to carry around with you and pull out for a quick doodle on the move.

[top10 position=”8″ bookname=”Graphic: Inside the Sketchbooks of the World’s Great Graphic Designers” authorname=”Steven Heller & Lita Telerico” publisher=”The Monacelli Press” pages=”352″ amazonusa=”1580932975″ amazonuk=”0500288844″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

A rare treat for readers as 100 of the world’s top graphic designers open up their sketchbooks and offer a peep into their design philosophies, methods and inspirations. The contributions range from rough sketches to collages and are accompanied by commentaries describing the design processes. This is a fascinating insight into the origin of commercial designs since we can usually only see the finished product. Designers featured include Uwe Loesch, Bruce Mau and Sara Fanelli.

[top10 position=”7″ bookname=”A Smile in the Mind: Witty Thinking in Graphic Design” authorname=”Beryl McAlhone & David Stuart” publisher=”Phaidon Press” pages=”240″ amazonusa=”0714838128″ amazonuk=”0714838128″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

A Smile in the Mind is dedicated to one of the most paramount features of graphic design- humour. A witty design has the incredible ability to engage an audience and leave a lasting impression. This is a celebration of clever ideas over computer skills and showcases the best designs of the last 30 years. Although discussing humour can often be the death of it, this book remains playful and informative.

[top10 position=”6″ bookname=”The Complete Guide to Digital Graphic Design” authorname=”Bob Gordon & Maggie Gordon” publisher=”Watson-Guptill” pages=”224″ amazonusa=”0823007839″ amazonuk=”0500285608″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

Approaching the midway point in this best graphic design books list is another essential one for graphic design students, this takes you through the fundamental basics of the latest design theory and practice. Although it is bursting with Technicolor photographs, experienced designers may find the commentaries a little sparse. Print, multimedia and online design are all covered in this hefty book. It may perhaps be targeted more at Mac users than PC users but is nevertheless an extremely useful textbook.

[top10 position=”5″ bookname=”Know Your Onions: Graphic Design” authorname=”Drew de Soto” publisher=”BIS Publishers” pages=”185″ amazonusa=”9063692587″ amazonuk=”9063692587″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

The subtitle of this book is particularly striking and appealed to me straight away when I came across this book. “How to think like a creative, act like businessman and design like a God,” is a very bold claim for such a little book. Whilst being a beautiful example of a book design in its own right, de Soto imparts his wisdom, experience of the industry and tricks of the trade in an easily digestible and captivating manner.

[top10 position=”4″ bookname=”The Encyclopaedia of Type Faces” authorname=”Jaspert, Berry & Johnson” publisher=”Cassell” pages=”440″ amazonusa=”1844036707″ amazonuk=”1844036707″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

The perfect reference book for anyone working in the world of design, publishing or printing who is seeking out a fitting font for their work, but equally as fascinating to have a flick through out of personal interest or mere curiosity. The book is divided into sections for Roman, Lineal and Script fonts and the examples are accompanied by the story of their origin, date of introduction and specific applications to tickle your fancy.

[top10 position=”3″ bookname=”Notes on Book Design” authorname=”Derek Birdsall” publisher=”Yale University Press” pages=”248″ amazonusa=”0300103476″ amazonuk=”0300103476″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

Celebrated book designer Derek Birdsall showcases a varied selection of books he has created over the course of his lengthy career, from traditional Penguin paperbacks to thick coffee table art books. For anyone who has taken the look and feel of books for granted, this book illuminates the many facets of the design process and the incredible preparation and attention to detail that is required. Birdsall also provides some extra tips in the appendix, where you will find sample text settings and book grids to whet your own appetite for design.

[top10 position=”2″ bookname=”How to be a Graphic Designer, Without Losing Your Soul” authorname=”Adrian Shaughnessy” publisher=”Princeton Architectural Press” pages=”160″ amazonusa=”1568985592″ amazonuk=”1856697096″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

An earnest guide to starting out as a graphic designer for graduates and beginners worried about consolidating success with an ethical approach. Is it possible to create commercially successful work and maintain your artistic integrity? This book focuses less on design tips and more about how to handle the practical world of work such as how to find clients and keep them happy and how to set up your own studio. This is a wonderful guide to how to make the most of your creativity, a worthy runner-up in this best graphic design books list.

[top10 position=”1″ bookname=”The Art of Looking Sideways” authorname=”Alan Fletcher” publisher=”Phaidon Press” pages=”534″ amazonusa=”0714834491″ amazonuk=”0714834491″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

Coming in at number one in my list of the best graphic design books, is a book described as “the ultimate guide to visual awareness”, this glorious collection of Fletcher’s work encourages us to look at the world around us with fresh eyes and advocates lateral thinking. This isn’t a book that has to be read cover to cover by any means since each page has a unique layout and something different to offer. With 72 different chapters stuffed full of graphics, photographs, calligraphy and inspirational quotes and centred on different “slices” of life there really is something that will appeal to everyone. The relationship between typography and imagery, space and colour are all presented in a challenging way to the reader. Guaranteed to give you the odd light bulb moment, this is a book to return to again and again.

Best Gardening Books

Since time immemorial, humans have instinctively sought to create and enjoy beautiful outdoor spaces. According to Genesis, The Garden of Eden was the setting for the creation of mankind. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon are one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. This passion for ordered outdoor existence has continued up to the present day.

As a student who just graduated from university, it is an understatement to say I don’t know much about gardening. Once I mowed the front lawn. For the next couple weeks, it looked like a pair of amateur golfers and some starving goats had simultaneously attacked the now patchy brown grass. However, I am capable of enjoying the fruit of others’ work and I admire an interest in working the earth. I found that the following books give fantastic practical advice and inspire gardeners to reach new heights of creativity. Who knows, maybe when the weekend hits I’ll hunt up a trowel and do a bit of weeding. (But probably not.)

[top10 position=”10″ bookname=”A Clearing in the Woods: Creating Contemporary Gardens” authorname=”Roger Foley” publisher=”The Monacelli Press” pages=”208″ amazonusa=”1580932452″ amazonuk=”1580932452″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

This glossy coffee-table book serves as inspiration to create truly magnificent gardens. Foley describes the twenty-six gardens (all located in America, but otherwise vastly different) before a series of his stunning, gorgeously lit photographs. These private gardens highlight the botanical possibilities in a whole range of geographical areas and weather conditions. According to the Washington Post, ‘[Roger Foley] doesn’t just observe; he perceives, and the resulting images capture the singular spirit of his subjects.’

[top10 position=”9″ bookname=”The Minimalist Garden” authorname=”Christopher Bradley-Hole” publisher=”The Monacelli Press” pages=”208″ amazonusa=”1580930557″ amazonuk=”1840001429″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

Less has become fashionably more in decorating circles, and gardening has followed suit. A Minimalist Garden capitalises on this trend and emphasises elegance, simplicity and strong lines. The book instructs gardeners who wish to imitate or innovate in the minimalist style through a directory of appropriate plants and materials. Photographs show how spare surroundings can draw attention to a few strong features, featuring a number of gardens with varying approaches to minimalism.  Bradley-Hole also explores the philosophical background of his topic.

[top10 position=”8″ bookname=”The Laskett” authorname=”Roy Strong” publisher=”Transworld Publishers” pages=”251″ amazonusa=”0553815199″ amazonuk=”0593050703″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

The Laskett is both a gardening book and a poetic narrative piece. It tells the moving story of Roy Strong’s marriage and the loss of his wife, centred on the monumental garden they made together. Strong explains how the garden went from dream to reality as he and his wife worked to create the largest formal garden in the UK. Many gardening icons feature in this narrative as minor characters, adding to the colour and spirit of the story. The Laskett intertwines the magnificence of the garden with that of Strong’s marriage, and the garden begins to symbolise the great love and grief of Roy Strong’s life.

Strong describes the Laskett as ‘nature tamed by art, a jardin d’amour, a memory system, a manipulation of space, an illusion and…a private sacred space in which the true circle of a marriage has been tenderly inscribed.’

[top10 position=”7″ bookname=”The Garden in Winter” authorname=”Rosemary Verey” publisher=”Frances Lincoln” pages=”168″ amazonusa=”0711220204″ amazonuk=”0711220204″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

Most gardeners develop the outdoors in the hope of admiring a burst of riotous floral splendour or shapely trees standing in line during the summer. Some anticipate autumn’s last hurrah of golden leaves or the first buds of spring.Winter is a different story. The grass doesn’t grow, the bushes turn black and ragged and the garden is fairly ugly for at least three months out of the year. This book instructs gardeners on creating a format which retains beauty, shape and colour during the winter. Verey tells readers about plants which bloom during the winter. She also emphasises the importance of heightening the attractiveness of the garden’s design, especially in relation to garden features (such as pots, paths and trellises), so that the garden retains its charm during the frosty winter months. This book is useful to every gardener living in a seasonal climate.

[top10 position=”6″ bookname=”Classic Roses” authorname=”Peter Beales” publisher=”Henry Holt and Co.” pages=”512″ amazonusa=”0805055843″ amazonuk=”1860463037″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

A list of gardening books would scarcely be complete without one which focuses on roses, the flowers of love and romance. In the seventeenth century, roses were so rare and beloved that they could be used as legal tender, and to this day they are considered especially valuable.

‘I haven’t much time to be fond of anything … but when I have a moment’s fondness to bestow, most times … the roses get it.’ – Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone

Beales is an expert on old roses, and his experience appears on every page of his book. Readers discover which types of roses will thrive in certain soils, what they require and how to buy, propagate and prune each species. This text is the ultimate on rose gardening and features 600 photographs.

[top10 position=”5″ bookname=”What Plant Where” authorname=”Roy Lancaster” publisher=”DK Adult” pages=”256″ amazonusa=”0789401517″ amazonuk=”0751302104″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

This highly practical guide to plants and gardening features plenty of photos and specific instruction. It aids both amateur and experienced gardeners to choose which plants to grow in his or her garden. With five chapters on perennials, climbers, shrubs, conifers and trees, What Plant Where offers instruction for areas such as borders, raised beds, rockeries and many others.

[top10 position=”4″ bookname=”All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space” authorname=”Mel Bartholomew” publisher=”Cool Springs Press” pages=”272″ amazonusa=”1591865484″ amazonuk=”1591862027″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

In this day and age, space is at a premium. This book is addressed primarily toward urban gardeners who only have access to postage-stamp backyards, balconies, window boxes. Complete with photographs, layout diagrams and clear instruction, it helps would-be gardeners make the most of minimal space. The essence of the instruction lies in building raised beds and filling them with a formula which helps the plants to thrive. All New Square Foot Gardening is recommended as a revolutionary way to garden by a variety of people, including busy professionals, parents and disabled people.

[top10 position=”3″ bookname=”Alan Titchmarsh How To Garden: Small Gardens” authorname=”Alan Titchmarsh” publisher=”BBC Books” pages=”128″ amazonusa=”1846074053″ amazonuk=”1846074053″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

Number three in my list of the best gardening books is How To Garden: Small Gardens by Alan Titchmarsh. The book is excellent for both amateurs who do not know where to start and those with extensive gardening knowledge, as Titchmarsh’s confident voice throughout explains how to manage small spaces creatively as well as frequently humorous. Highly recommended.

[top10 position=”2″ bookname=”Derek Jarman’s Garden” authorname=”Derek Jarman” publisher=”Thames & Hudson” pages=”144″ amazonusa=”0500016569″ amazonuk=”0500016569″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

In the last days of his life, the filmmaker and artist Derek Jarman created a garden in the most unlikely of locations; a strip of harsh shingle ground facing a nuclear power station in Kent. Jarman imitated many of the elements around him in his garden, resulting in a piece of land that beautified and reflected both the harsh, spare scenery and Jarman’s own personality.

“I was always a passionate gardener – flowers sparkled in my childhood as they do in a medieval manuscript.”

The garden features beds delineated with sharp flints and roses growing up driftwood, metallic sculptures and occasional bursts of poppies. It is a tribute to gardening as a piece of art coming out of circumstances that seemed to render it impossible.

[top10 position=”1″ bookname=”The Complete Garden Expert” authorname=”Dr D. G. Hessayon” publisher=”Expert ” pages=”144″ amazonusa=”B00B9ZOJBQ” amazonuk=”0903505983″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

Be Your Own Gardening Expert was first published in 1958 and became such a hit that it created a brand of books. Most of these books are short and directed specifically at a certain feature of gardening – bulb planting or pests, for example. Titles span every facet of gardening, and include The Orchid Expert, The Garden to Kitchen Expert, The Fruit Expert and many others. These books are succinct, reliable, well-illustrated and have had fantastic commercial success. Today more than 52 million Expert books have been sold, rendering them the best-selling gardening books throughout the world.

The Best Selling Books of 2012

In a year that’s so far been dominated by block busting trilogies, be it Game of Thrones, The Hunger Games or Fifty Shades of Grey, it’s good to know that there are still other books out there. From journeys into the subconscious, to medical marvels and tales of survival in astonishing circumstances, here are some of 2012’s best sellers so far.

[top10 position=”30″ bookname=”One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are” authorname=”Ann Voskamp” publisher=”Zondervan” pages=”240″ amazonusa=”0310321913″ amazonuk=”0310321913″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

 

One Thousand Gifts is Ann Voskamp’s ode to embracing every day and living life to the fullest. She details her spiritual journey within and enumerates the all the small things in her life that she is thankful for, including

Replete with metaphors and heavy, meandering descriptions, the book can make for a laborious read at times and would be somewhat alienating for secular readers, due to its biblical underpinning. However the overall message of being grateful for the small things in life is universal and will resonate and with many.

[top10 position=”29″ bookname=”The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” authorname=”Rebecca Skloot” publisher=”Broadway Books” pages=”400″ amazonusa=”1400052181″ amazonuk=”0330533444″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

The name will not be familiar to most, but Henrietta Lacks, born in Virginia in 1920, came to be one of the most important and valuable tools in modern medicine, unbeknownst to even her. This is because Henrietta’s cells still live on today, long past her death from cervical cancer in 1951.

What has become known as the ‘HeLa’ cell line began as cancerous tumour cells, removed without permission from Henrietta during radiation therapy, and cultured by a geneticist called George Otto Gey to create an ‘immortal cell line’ for future medical research. “If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they’d weigh more than 50 million metric tons—as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings,” says author Rebecca Skloot. Since the 1950s, The HeLa cell line has been used in research for polio vaccinations, cancer and AIDS cures as well as gene mapping.

As well as documenting the ensuing medical breakthroughs enabled by the cell line, we get to know Henrietta and her family as people, and their lives leading up to and following Henrietta’s death. The ethics and politics of race and class in medical research in the 1950s, and the issue of informed consent, are explored in-depth, and make Skloot’s homage to Henrietta, ten years in the making, a fascinating read.

[top10 position=”28″ bookname=”The Great Gatsby” authorname=”F.Scott Fitzgerald” publisher=”Scribner” pages=”192″ amazonusa=”0743273567″ amazonuk=”185326041X” amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”

First published in 1923, Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby spans from spring to autumn 1922, when America was entering a period of hedonistic self-indulgence known as the Roaring Twenties.

In this most recent republication the book has enjoyed a brand new audience gripped by the complex narrative surrounding the lives of a group of young, wealthy Long Island residents.  Fitzgerald puts a magnifying glass on the shallowness and foibles of the bright young things in the story and no one comes out well in it. This book is as readable today as when it first hit the shelves in the 20s and introduces a new audience to the magnificence that is Fitzgerald.

[top10 position=”27″ bookname=”Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” authorname=”Susan Cain” publisher=”368″ pages=”Broadway Books” amazonusa=”0307352153″ amazonuk=”0141029196″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

“There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.”

It’s said that Neil Armstrong was selected among fellow astronauts to be the first person to set foot on the moon due to, amongst other things, his introverted nature and quiet dignity. NASA didn’t want a more egoistic individual using the position for personal aggrandising. However, appointments such as this feel increasingly rare in a world that seems to reward personality over character and extraversion over integrity.

Quiet is Susan Cain’s ode to the introverts that are quietly carving their corners in the world without fanfare. The book poses that introverts behave in this way as their brains are especially sensitive to over stimulation and offers advice and guidance to parents, teachers and introverts themselves, as well as detailing the advantages of being an introvert in a world that doesn’t seem built for them.

Unfortunately the sorting of individuals into one of two camps can, at times, feel somewhat reductive, and the ‘ambivert’ Cain references at the start of the book, is need of further discussion, however aside from this, Quiet makes for a fascinating read.

[top10 position=”26″ bookname=”Eat to Live: The Amazing Nutrient-Rich Program for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss” authorname=”Joel Fuhrman” publisher=”Little, Brown” pages=”400″ amazonusa=”031612091X” amazonuk=”0316206644″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

The first of many health centric books on this year’s best-seller’s list is Dr Fuhrman’s Eat to Live. The book was first published in 2003, and this revised edition has been updated to include success stories from those who have followed Dr Fuhrman’s plan, new recipes and more up to date scientific and nutritional data.

The main thrust comes in the form of a six week vegetarian plan, with the central tenet being: the more nutrient-dense food you eat, the less you crave fats, sweets, and high calorific foods. Dr Fuhrman believes that this diet can reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Aside from the overzealous language used, for example how ‘shockingly’ large amounts of weight can be lost and the ‘revolutionary’ nature of the plan, the diet is less faddy and more common sense than a lot of its equivalents on the market.

[top10 position=”25″ bookname=”Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health” authorname=”William Davis” publisher=”Rodale Books” pages=”304″ amazonusa=”1609611543″ amazonuk=”1609614798″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

Starting with the premise that wheat is the single largest contributor to the American obesity epidemic, due to the engineered, hybrid form of wheat that dominates today’s markets, author William Davis sets out to shed light on the perils of wheat consumption and points the way to a wheat free life.  The book contains a very comprehensive and well-researched, if a touch over technical history of wheat cultivation, as well as case studies, recipes and a ‘What now?’ section.

While the book delivers a well-structured argument for cutting wheat from your diet, it disappoints towards the end, where Davis recommends cutting out almost all carbohydrates. This is disappointing as it belies the book’s title and purported premise, and falls back on the well-peddled ‘no carb diet’ which has been doing the rounds for years now, though often derided by nutritionists.

[top10 position=”24″ bookname=”The Amateur” authorname=”Edward Klein” publisher=”Regnery Publishing” pages=”256″ amazonusa=”1621570908″ amazonuk=”1596987855″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

In his latest instalment of Democrat critique, Edward Klein sets out to dismantle ‘one of the most secretive White Houses in history’, the Obama Administration in a book is based on almost 200 interviews with White House ‘insiders’.

The ‘amateur’ in the title refers to what Klein perceives as Obama’s lack of experience prior to his appointment to office. As well as scrutinising the administration’s policies and political agenda, Klein also tackles the less political and apparently thorny issue of Michelle Obama’s rivalry with Oprah Winfrey.

What could have made a valid contribution to the serious debate of which party is in the best position to serve the American people during the economic crisis, instead manifests as a thinly veiled and poorly researched exercise in political mud-slinging.

[top10 position=”23″ bookname=”The Serpent’s Shadow (The Kane Chronicles, Book 3)” authorname=”Rick Riordan” publisher=”Disney-Hyperion” pages=”464″ amazonusa=”1423142020″ amazonuk=”0141335688″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

“A weapon, I told Horus. I need a weapon. I reached into the Duat and pulled out an ostrich feather.”Really?” I yelled. Horus didn’t answer”

Rooted in Egyptian Mythology, The Serpent’s Shadow, the final installation of the Kane Chronicles series whisks the reader along with the adventures of teenage siblings, and magicians, Carter and Sadie Kane.

Hampered by a ‘chaos snake’, (I hate it when that happens) that wants to plunge the world into eternal darkness, the siblings must destroy him with the acquisition of an ancient spell in order to save the planet.

Concluding a trilogy must be a daunting affair, but author Rick Riordan manages to do so neatly and with some intrigue intact. The Serpent’s Shadow is less preachy and overly moralistic than many books aimed at teenagers, and manages to combine the mysteries of ancient Egypt with humour and spirit.

[top10 position=”22″ bookname=”The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” authorname=”Stephen R. Covey” publisher=”Free Press” pages=”384″ amazonusa=”0743269519″ amazonuk=”0684858398″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

 

Mandatory reading for many US businesses people, but aimed at both personal and career based problems, Covey’s reissued Seven Habits has gathered quite a dedicated following since its first publication in 1990.

Covey details the ‘paradigm shift’ in habit formation necessary for a successful life and career, and discusses the concept of ‘centres’ at length, these being the ways in which individuals rate themselves.

This special anniversary edition contains updated fore and after words, and addresses the most popular questions Covey has received from readers since the book’s first publication.

As with a lot of motivational books, Seven Habits suffers slightly from repetition and the unnecessary fleshing out of Covey’s core idea, but it has stood the test of time and is as popular now amongst business people and would be entrepreneurs as it ever was.

[top10 position=”21″ bookname=”The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable” authorname=”Patrick Lencioni” publisher=”Jossey-Bass” pages=”229″ amazonusa=”0787960756″ amazonuk=”0787960756″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

In this manual Leocini seeks to identify the reasons behind why certain teams fail, then provides the steps that are required to overcome these hurdles, the desired outcome being a more healthy and effective team.

A good portion of Leocini’s text is dedicated to a central ‘fable’, that of a failing Silicone Valley firm, and the reader is left to draw analogies with their own circumstances. The difficulty may be that the solutions offered are somewhat simplistic and characters therein stereotypical, which leads to a ‘one size fits all’ conclusion.

The book also includes a questionnaire to assist in identification of malcontents in the team and, despite character oversimplification, is written in a clear and uncomplicated style, and appears to offer practical solutions to allow teams to develop.

[top10 position=”20″ bookname=”The Harbinger: The ancient mystery that holds the secret of America’s Future” authorname=”Jonathan Cahn” publisher=”Frontline Pub Inc” pages=”272″ amazonusa=”161638610X” amazonuk=”1611735270″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

In this book or ‘fable’, Rabbi Jonathan Khan reveals that it is the godless state of American society that has brought the apocalypse that was 9/11 down on the American people.

The writer refers to an ancient mystery embedded in Isaiah 9:10-11 and seeks to connect the history of 8th century B.C. Israel with current events of the last decade in America, including the collapse of the world economy.

The purpose of the book is to urge the American people to repent of their ways and remember the foundations upon which America was built. The author makes tenuous connections between the biblical past and the present day and requires a leap of faith both for believers and non-believers alike to ascribe credibility to the prophesies and dire warnings contained within.

[top10 position=”19″ bookname=”The Blood Sugar Solution: The Ultra Healthy Program for Losing Weight, Preventing Disease, and Feeling Great Now!” authorname=”Dr. Mark Hyman” publisher=”Little, Brown” pages=”448″ amazonusa=”031612737X” amazonuk=”1444760564″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

 

In the Blood Sugar Solution, author and doctor, Mark Hyman focuses on ‘secret killer’ insulin imbalance, and points readers to ways in which they can rebalance their levels, which in turn helps to prevent diabetes, heart disease, strokes, dementia and cancer.

The six-week healthy living guide details the ‘seven keys’ to achieving ‘wellness nutrition’ from cutting out heavily processed foods through to embracing a largely organic, vegetarian diet in addition to buying supplements from Hyman’s website and affiliate connections. Reviews by consumers are mixed with some extolling and others deriding both the steep cost and the harsh dieting regime required to bring about cures.

[top10 position=”18″ bookname=”The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business” authorname=”Charles Duhigg” publisher=”Random House” pages=”400″ amazonusa=”1400069289″ amazonuk=”1847946240″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

Mark Twain once said ‘Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s bad habits.’ Charles Duhigg, award-winning New York Times business reporter, has gone one step further and written a book on them.

Duhig claims that we must first diagnose our undesirable habits, identify the rewards we gain from these habits and then aim to seek these rewards from alternative sources. The example Duhig uses is that for years, at 3.30-4pm, he would rise from his work desk and buy a cookie from the cafeteria, then eat it while socialising with his colleagues. After some introspection, he soon realised that it was the socialisation that he was actually craving during this 3.30-4pm slump, not the sugar. Extending this logic, Duhig believes that he can turn alcoholics sober and school drop-outs into managers.

The concept is essentially that of cognitive behavioural therapy and classical conditioning, however it does make for an interesting read and is filled with amusing anecdotes and real world examples.

[top10 position=”17″ bookname=”Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” authorname=”Dr. Seuss” publisher=”Random House” pages=”56″ amazonusa=”0679805273″ amazonuk=”0007158521″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

A book that starts with ‘Congratulations, today is you day, you’re off to great places, you’re off and away!” cannot fail to entice readers of all ages, and, like all Dr Seuss books, to limit readership to children would be a crime.

This beautifully illustrated homage to overcoming life’s challenges through positivity and strong-headedness catapults the reader through the highs, lows, swings and roundabouts of existence until they reach ‘the waiting place’, where they simply wait for things to happen.

“Will you succeed? Yes, you will indeed. (98¾% guaranteed.)”

[top10 position=”16″ bookname=”Thinking, Fast and Slow” authorname=”Daniel Kahneman” publisher=”Farrar, Straus and Giroux” pages=”512″ amazonusa=”0374533555″ amazonuk=”0141033576″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

Nobel Prize winner for Economic Sciences, Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow is the latest work to tackle the question of how our minds work. Though technical, this offering is essentially for the layman, much in the way Steve Pinker’s How the Mind Works aimed to aid a wider understanding of the mind in evolutionary terms.

Praised by Pinker as ‘The most important psychologist alive today’, Kahneman dissects what he believes be the two systems that navigate our decision-making with methodical precision. He believes that our minds work on a dual-process model: system 1 being the intuitive side, responsible for our instinctive and rapid judgments and decisions, not entirely unlike Freud’s ‘id’, and system 2 the slow deliberator, the dissector of more complex situations.

Tackling questions such as why are judges more likely to deny parole before lunch time and, why is there more chance a reader will believe something if it is in bold type, Kahneman’s insights into what influences decision-making make for a surprising and captivating, if at times challenging, read.

[top10 position=”15″ bookname=”Steve Jobs” authorname=”Walter Isaacson” publisher=”Simon & Schuster” pages=”656″ amazonusa=”1451648537″ amazonuk=”1408703742″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

“I want to put a ding in the universe.”

Steve Jobs approached biographer Walter Isaacson in 2004 saying “Why don’t you do a biography on me?” which says a lot about the innovator’s sense of self, especially considering  Isaacson’s previous subjects were Albert Einstein and Benjamin FranklynJobs’ achievements and legacy, however, merited such an audacious request. As CEO and head creative visionary of Apple, Jobs’ creations have inspired unprecedented devotion among their users.

The biography, structured around forty interviews with Jobs, provides an objective insight into the man’s fluctuating career and unconventional personal life. To his credit, Jobs insisted on remaining totally impartial, and even vowed to not read the book until it appeared on the shelves. For a man who enjoyed control of every aspect of his company this comes as a surprise.

The book is peppered with many more surprises, detailing along the way Jobs’ early career at Apple, subsequent dismissal, co-founding of Pixar, followed by a reappointment and resounding success at Apple. Authorised biographies are often gushingly sycophantic affairs, however Isaacson’s effort goes the other way, and is highly objective and at times ruthless in its descriptions of Jobs’ manner towards his employees.

[top10 position=”14″ bookname=”The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts” authorname=”Gary Chapman” publisher=”Northfield Publishing” pages=”208″ amazonusa=”0802473156″ amazonuk=”0802473156″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

The Five Love Languages has sold over five million copies and has been translated into 38 languages since its first publication 16 years ago. The manual sets out to help couples to ‘discover their unique love languages’, and includes the steps needed to refocus your relationship.

Consistent with the growing trend in self-help books, the book contains a promotional code to gain exclusive online access to the ‘new comprehensive love languages assessment’, to help subscribers to further ‘understand and strengthen’ their relationships.

It is split into five chapters, one for each language, these being Words of affirmation, Act of Service, Affection, Quality time and Gifts, and may be of solace to some but feels a lot like the repackaging of common sense.

However this does not diminish the apparent sincerity of the author in wishing to guide people experiencing difficulties in their relationships with loved ones.

[top10 position=”13″ bookname=”Gone Girl” authorname=”Gillian Flynn” publisher=”Crown” pages=”432″ amazonusa=”030758836X” amazonuk=”0753827662″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

On Nick and Amy Dune’s fifth wedding anniversary, Amy disappears from their Mississippi River mansion. Nick, formerly the town’s golden boy quickly becomes the case’s prime suspect.

To reveal any more details would disservice potential readers and risk spoiling the book’s intricate and meticulously formulated plot. The novel employs the device of the unreliable narrator, as it is told from both the perspectives of Nick and Amy, through her diary, and the ever-changing chain of events are Hitchcock like in their twists and turns.

Gone Girl creeps beyond the usual confines of ‘who-done-its’ and calls into question the nature of intimate relationships, making you question if you can every really know those closest to us.

[top10 position=”12″ bookname=”Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption” authorname=”Laura Hillenbrand” publisher=”Random House” pages=”496″ amazonusa=”1400064163″ amazonuk=”0007378033″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

 “We just sat there and watched the plane pass the island, and it never came back,” he said. “I could see it on the radar. It makes you feel terrible. Life was cheap in war.”

Unbroken, an unparalleled tale of human resilience, tells the story of WWII lieutenant Louis Zamperini, who spent 47 days drifting in the Pacific on a small raft, after his B-24 engine failed. During this time, the stranded American bombardier and his two comrades battled typhoons, ­sharks and starvation for survival, only to be captured by the Japanese and detained in a series of prisoner of war camps.

Zamperini, now 93, is a fascinating character, even prior to his years at war. A former Olympian, he took part in the 1936 Games in Berlin, where he was tipped to be the first to run the four-minute mile.

This well researched and vivid labour of love, which Laura Hillenbrand researched for seven years, documents the soldier’s story gathered from telegrams, newspaper clippings, interviews and witness accounts.  An extreme tale of survival and grit, Unbroken beguiles at every turn, with Zamperini’s charisma and charm leaving you wishing for a sequel.

[top10 position=”11″ bookname=”A Song of Ice and Fire, Books 1-4 (A Game of Thrones, A Feast for Crows, A Storm of Swords, Clash of Kings)” authorname=”George R. R. Martin” publisher=”” pages=”” amazonusa=”0007448058″ amazonuk=”B00C6OSOTM” amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

 

Set on the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos, George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire transports readers to a fantastical War of the Roses. Technically fantasy, but leaning more towards historical fiction in a medieval setting with all of the Dark Ages’ brutality, the novels portray the power struggles and dynastic wars for control of the throne of Westeros. The themes of medieval class structures, of good and evil, redemption and loss are explored, with morally grey areas in every twist of the plot.

In addition to the battle for the throne, there are the ominously named ‘Others’ believed to be mythical creatures living behind an immense wall of ice on Westeros’ border. The third volume is set on a continent of Essos and follows the adventures of Daenerys Targaryen. Born a pauper, but with a claim to the House Targaryen the story centres around her battle to regain the Iron Throne.

The numerous characters are well defined and believable, and their identities and inherent flaws develop ingeniously as the stories proceed. Martin seems quite happy and willing to kill off the main protagonists, lending a sense of urgency to the meticulously layered plot.

[top10 position=”10″ bookname=”The Official SAT Study Guide” authorname=”The College Board” publisher=”College Board” pages=”997″ amazonusa=”0874478529″ amazonuk=”0874478529″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

 

The advent of academic study guides of all shapes and guises has been a boon to the solitary student as well as being a “learn quick” manual for parents eager to support their child in their exam preparation.

This book, The Official SAT Study Guide, 2nd edition, receives endorsements in a wide range of reviews with one or two cautionary health warnings to ensure that corrections to wrong answers in previous editions are addressed. Most advice comes in the form of closely following the testing schedule contained in the manual to ensure success in subsequent exams.

[top10 position=”9″ bookname=”Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association” authorname=”American Psychological Association” publisher=”American Psychological Association” pages=”272″ amazonusa=”1433805618″ amazonuk=”1433805618″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

This sixth edition of the APA’s publication manual has been condensed and reorganized for easier and quicker referral. There is also more emphasis on grammar and citations, which are always helpful as any psychology student will tell you that bibliographies often take up more time than experimental work. Further, the option of digital citations has also been added, for online sources such as YouTube.

There was some initial panic amongst students and academics as the first printing of the manual contained more than an acceptable number of errors, but this has since been rectified.

[top10 position=”8″ bookname=”No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden” authorname=”Mark Owen” publisher=”Dutton Adult” pages=”316″ amazonusa=”0525953728″ amazonuk=”0718177517″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

No Easy Day is an enthralling first-hand account of the circumstances that surrounded the killing of Osama Bin Laden by a group of US Navy Seals. What makes the book even more ‘forbidden reading’, and intriguing, is the controversy surrounding its publication, as author Mark Owen (a pseudonym) received no authorisation from US officials in writing it, and it is purported to contain classified information. The first part of the book is an autobiographical account of Owen’s young life and ambitions to be a Navy Seal and details some of his earlier skirmishes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Apart from the gripping account that details the events of the capture and death of Bin Laden, Owen’s book is a homage and salute to the courage and professionalism of his fellow Seals.

[top10 position=”7″ bookname=”StrengthsFinder 2.0″ authorname=”Tom Rath and Barry Conchie” publisher=”Gallup Press” pages=”266″ amazonusa=”1595620257″ amazonuk=”159562015X” amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

A follow on from 2001’s online assessment tool ‘StrengthsFinder’, this latest offering also aims to help readers to make the most of their natural talents by developing their strengths, with a new and revamped assessment.

The test claims to uncover reader’s top five strengths, among the 34 that are said to exist. Those curious as to how they rank with regards to the remaining 29 strengths are asked for an additional $550.

The quick to read 31 pages of text are user friendly but many readers have expressed grievances relating to the online test, which you are allowed to take only once. If your circumstances change and you wish to re-take the test, you will need to purchase the book again.

[top10 position=”6″ bookname=”Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, Book 3)” authorname=”Suzanne Collins” publisher=”Scholastic Press” pages=”400″ amazonusa=”0439023513″ amazonuk=”1407109375″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

“Technically, I am unarmed. But no one should ever underestimate the harm that fingernails can do. Especially if the target is unprepared.”

Mockingjay is the third and final chapter in the Hunger Games trilogy. Following devastating events Katniss is now homeless and Peeta is a prisoner of the Capitol. The plot follows Katniss and fellow refugees inciting rebellion across the districts against the sinister figures of `The Capitol.’ This is a world where children fight and kill each other for the entertainment of the masses.

Katniss is not an easy loveable one-dimensional character. She is at times, rash, judgemental and lethal. However she reluctantly agrees to become `The Mockingjay,’ a shadowy leader of the rebellion and is a fighter to the very end. Difficult decisions are made and allegiances broken. Themes of violence and destruction are traumatic and the ending as in all wars is a compromise of ideals. There is no doubt that this trilogy makes for powerful and disturbing reading drawing many parallels with modern life.

[top10 position=”5″ bookname=”Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, Book 2)” authorname=”Suzanne Collins” publisher=”Scholastic Press” pages=”391″ amazonusa=”0439023491″ amazonuk=”1407109367″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

Catching Fire is the second book in the Hunger Games trilogy and the plot continues with twists and turns from where the previous book finished. A supposed romance has developed between key characters Katniss and Peeta who are now living in the victor’s house having won in the last battle of the Hunger Games. But quiet rebellion is in the air while arch villain President Snow is determined that Katniss re-enter to fight once again in the barbaric 75th Quarter Quell.

The deaths and darkness continue unabated in this sequel but are deftly handled by the author who, whilst not dismissing them, somehow manages to imbue a sense of growing optimism in Katniss and her fellow travellers that the Peacekeepers are not invincible. New characters are introduced and the storyline is certainly darker than in book one with familiar themes of love, friendship, loss and pain and but ultimately hope.

[top10 position=”4″ bookname=”The Hunger Games” authorname=”Suzanne Collins” publisher=”Scholastic” pages=”384″ amazonusa=”0545405777″ amazonuk=”B004XJRQUQ” amazonca=”0545626382″ amazonimg=’‘ ]

This is the first in the best selling trilogy set in a post apocalyptic America. The book is aimed at young adults but has gained a wide following and has been a fixture on the best sellers list for a considerable time. The Hunger Games’ plot is written partly in the style of a myth but is also an allegory of the effects of war and poverty in a conquered people.

The young heroine Katniss Everdeen narrates the story and quickly gathers the reader into her world of anger, pain and hope.  She and other chosen young people must take part in battles where – kill or be killed – is the only rule. The fights are televised live, a sort of bread and circuses for the masses. Although the content is often violent and very dark there are interludes of humour, comradeship and altruism allowing the reader a breathing space in the gloom.

[top10 position=”3″ bookname=”Fifty Shades Free” authorname=”E L James” publisher=”Vintage” pages=”592″ amazonusa=”0345803507″ amazonuk=”0099579944″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

In the final part of the trilogy, the newly married Ana and Christian are in the wake of their European honeymoon. But happy ever after is not on the cards just yet.

This third book sees more development of Christian’s character than the first two as he continues to confront his demons, and the couple at first settle down to married life, but a threat to Grey Enterprises looms. The character of Anna grows in stature during the course of the book but ultimately the plot grows increasingly outlandish. However this, along with poor grammar and syntax, and stultifying repetition of sex scenes do not appear to discourage the determined readership.

 [top10 position=”2″ bookname=”Fifty Shades Darker” authorname=”E L James” publisher=”Vintage” pages=”544″ amazonusa=”0345803493″ amazonuk=”0099579928″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

In book two, Anastasia breaks off her relationship with Christian to make way for her new career in a publishing house. However, unable to forget her former obsession, she relapses, and, after brief five day interlude, we return to more of the same.

The addition of two new characters, Anastasia’s new boss and one of Christian’s former subs, whose aim it is to break the couple up, do little to refresh the storyline, and this second instalment feels even more economical on plot than the first. Despite this, the book continues to enthral its growing readership with its seemingly insatiable appetite for the painful and exotic.

[top10 position=”1″ bookname=”Fifty Shades of Grey” authorname=”E L James” publisher=”Vintage” pages=”528″ amazonusa=”0345803485″ amazonuk=”0099579936″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

 

It’s been difficult to escape the Fifty Shades of Grey whirlwind that has been the past year, but for those who have managed it, the books started life as Twilight fan fiction, until author E.L. James changed the character names and the trilogy was born.

The story centres around naïve literature student Anastasia Steele and her relationship with 26 year old billionaire Christian Grey. Immediately attracted to him, the otherwise quiet and reserved Anastasia desperately tries to find ways to get close to him, and in the end succeeds.

Bursting with lengthy sex scenes, it’s safe to say not many people made the purchase for the quality of storyline and prose, but those who did would have been greatly disappointed. There is a whole lot of repetition of ‘scowls’, ‘smirks’, ‘whispers’ ‘blushes’ and ‘gasps’ (amongst others) to the point where the trilogy could be turned into a very successful drinking game.

However the series has enjoyed enormous success, spawned countless rip-offs  each with their own sultry monochrome book sleeves, and there is of course a film in the works. So it seems E.L. James has discovered the recipe for covertly appealing to the Kindle shielded masses.

 

So there we have it

There is certainly no shortage of self-help titles out there, from how to make informed decisions, through to becoming a vegetarian and starting your own Silicon Valley firm, there is advice aplenty.

There were also classics that have stood the test of time, weighty tomes for lovers of the fantastic, a smattering of politics and intrigue and then right out of the left field the unlikely star of 2012’s best sellers – Christian Grey

 

Other excellent titles that were close to the top 30 and are worth a mention:

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Kathryn Stockett’s debut novel, The Help, was rejected by sixty publishing houses before it was eventually taken up. Set in 1960s Mississippi, it is a tale of three women; Aibleen and Minny, both African-American maids living, working and tolerating with a mixture of stoicism, cynicism and often passive resistance, their arrogant and spoilt southern belle employers; and then there is Skeeter an aspiring twenty-two year old writer, and troubled soul whose goal it is to strive via her writing to right the wrongs she clearly sees around her. To do this she has to put her head above the parapet amongst her own social set and in doing so risks ostracization.

The novel has become very popular, and has been adapted into a film, however praise has not been unanimous. An open statement by Ida E Jones, national director of the Association of Black Woman Historians criticized the book, arguing “despite efforts to market the book and the film as a progressive story of triumph over racial injustice, The Help distorts, ignores, and trivializes the experiences of black domestic workers.”

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

“It was one of the best days of my life, a day during which I lived my life and didn’t think about my life at all.”

Jonathan Safran Foer’s 2nd novel centres around nine-year-old Oskar Schell, who finds a key in his house, in an envelope marked ‘Black’. Believing it to be a clue left by his late father, who was killed in the World Trade Centre terrorist attacks, Oskar embarks on a city-wide search for the key’s lock, making friends and foes along the way, and becoming entwined in their own stories.

Unfortunately last year’s Hollywood adaptation managed to extract every ounce of intrigue and sincerity the book had to offer. The novel itself however grapples with trauma, tragedy and ultimately self-preservation, whilst remaining charming, funny and original throughout, and is only held back by a slightly more laboured side plot involving Oskar’s grandparents.

 

How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

“I’m neither ‘pro-women’ nor ‘anti-men’. I’m just ‘Thumbs up for the six billion”

Caitlin Moran’s first book has been a long time coming for her legions of dedicated followers garnered from her years as a Times columnist. The book combines Moran’s tales of growing up with seven siblings in Wolverhampton with her musings on the current state of feminism and misogyny and their influences on equilibrium in the workplace, family and wider world. This description however does not do Moran adequate justice as she is extremely witty, and the stories from her childhood through to navigating her way through adolescence will resonate widely. She so accurately captures the awkwardness and confusion experienced by teenage girls who are caught between the media’s portrayals of how they should behave, and their actual desires and aspirations.

Why do women love Fifty Shades Of Grey?

Fifty Shades of Grey E.L. James
Fifty Shades Of Grey by E. L. James (Published by Vintage, 2012)

Is there anyone on the London Underground who isn’t reading one of the books from the Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy either self-consciously on good old-fashioned paper or in delicious secrecy on their iPads and Kindles? Or rather anyone female, I should say, because I am yet to see a man getting his kicks on the Central Line Westbound before his 9-5, by reading about the depraved goings on in Christian Grey’s “Red room.” Fifty Shades of Grey is now officially the bestselling book in Britain, ever, having topped 5.3 million sales. It really is staggering. Staggering at least to me because having read the first in the series, I am amazed that like Anastasia Steele, female readers seemingly keep going back for more punishment. However, suspending my own disbelief for a second, I will try to determine why Fifty Shades of Grey continues to have its wicked way with the British public.

It seems that women are searching for a new literary icon– a modern man who will induce unrealistic expectations of the male sex in all female readers and make finding “Mr Right” an impossible task. How many men have been rejected the world over because they failed to live up to Mr Darcy’s reputation? Yet literary heroes are often less than perfect themselves. Mr Darcy was surly and proud and Heathcliff was obsessive, violent, bordering on psychotic.

Christian Grey meanwhile, is handsome and charming, as well as being an extremely successful and obscenely rich entrepreneur. But he is controlling and cold, making it quite clear to Ana that he doesn’t “do” girlfriends and love. This of course is all horribly ironic because it is mentioned early on in the book that Ana is still a virgin at 21.

The fact is that good girls have been attracted to the bad boys since time immemorial. The fantasy of an innocent but beautiful girl being whisked away by an older, experienced man who knows what he wants is absolutely nothing new. Fifty Shades of Grey is merely following an ancient and successful blueprint.  And surprise, surprise Mr Grey has emotional baggage too (no doubt all of it expensive and matching). 

Of course Ana believes that she is the one, among all of his female sex slaves, who can change him and his unconventional lifestyle. This is the bait that reels in the readers! This is erotic fiction masquerading as romance. It isn’t that female readers want to feel submissive themselves. On the contrary, they want to watch Miss Steele “bewitch” and “beguile” Mr Grey into forgetting all about spanking, whipping and hot wax for a second and succumb to her superior feminine powers and settle down.

It is unsurprising that Fifty Shades tops the list of books left in hotel rooms, because after indulging in a little fantasy there is no need to read it twice. The prose is repetitive and the dialogue is as cheesy as it gets.

The dialogue in many scenes had me laughing out loud,  but do you know what? I like the fact that E.L. James doesn’t take herself seriously, which is apparent through Ana’s interior monologue, where she broods about her “inner goddess” and offers such insights as, “I am naked in a bath with Christian Grey. He’s naked,” and “We’re talking about cheese…Holy crap.”

It also comes as no surprise to find out that Fifty Shades started life as a piece of Twilight fan fiction. I can’t help but picture Kristen Stewart’s wooden face every time Ana trips over or bites her lip. Which is approximately 3786874 times in the first chapter alone. And similarly to Twilight’s Edward, Christian has an uncanny and profoundly unsettling ability to suddenly appear in her bedroom uninvited.
Despite what I have written thus far, I am not a literature snob. I am all in favour of so-called “low literature.” I would much rather see people reading Fifty Shades of Grey on the tube than playing mindlessly on their iPhones. For women who are busy, it is the perfect book to dip into (it only ever takes an impressive ten lines for Ana to reach orgasm). It is modern technology which has been the books’ biggest champion. The internet allows you to recommend books to hundreds of friends at the touch of a button and your friends can purchase the books at just the same speed. The ability to read whatever you want discreetly in e-book form also means that more women have been able to test out the previously unchartered waters of erotic fiction for the first time. More power to them.

If you still haven’t read it and curiosity has finally got the better of you…

Here we go, from one friend to another: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Fifty-Shades-Grey-E-James/dp/0099579936/

As for me, I think I’ll be leaving my copy in the nearest Travelodge.

Best Parenting Books

Being a parent is as rewarding as it is taxing, and sometimes a little extra advice can go a long way. There are an overwhelming number of books out there for every stage of being a parent, including first time parents, those thinking about becoming one and those who already have multiple children. In this list of the best parenting books you will find a range of different approaches and ideas that might help improve your relationship with your children and with yourself. If you are having any children-related issues and you are on the verge of losing your hair from stress, perhaps you should add a few of these parenting books to your to-read list and get a helping hand.

[top10 position=”10″ bookname=”Mind In The Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs” authorname=”Ellen Galinsky” publisher=”William Morrow Paperbacks” pages=”400″ amazonusa=”006173232X” amazonuk=”006173232X” amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

Mind in the Making by Ellen Galinsky kicks off this list of the best parenting books. The premise she sets out is that there are seven key steps in a child’s development and manages to wonderfully simplify all of the science behind these development processes into coherent passages for parents. Galinsky manages to transpose complex brain functions, memory development and language development into an easy to read text, that offers incredible insight into just how amazingly complex children can be. Each chapter is organised and has a list of suggestions that parents can use in order to expand and explore their child’s growth alongside the information in the text. One of the most interesting insights Mind in the Making offers is that children should be allowed to let their own passions guide them through their development, and they should be encouraged to ask all sorts of questions: no subject should be closed. Although there may perhaps be more than just seven essential steps in a child’s development, Galinsky books is educational, insightful and accessible. A very different and interesting take on parenting books.

[top10 position=”9″ bookname=”New Toddler Taming: A Parents’ Guide to the First Four Years” authorname=”Dr. Christopher Green” publisher=”Vermilion” pages=”448″ amazonusa=”0091902584″ amazonuk=”0091902584″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

Dr. Christopher Green is a highly-skilled paediatrician and an honorary consultant at Sydney’s Children’s Hospital, and his book New Toddler Taming is a witty and helpful guide for parents with toddlers. Green tackles all if the major struggles parents face when dealing with toddlers from potty training to tantrums and always reassures parents that there toddlers are completely normal. This reassurance proves invaluable to parents who can sometimes be at the end of tether with their children at this difficult stage in their development. Green always reminds parents that their toddler’s are “impulsive” and offers common sense advice that is a joy to read. Humour permeates this text, making it one of the less tiring parenting books to read. A great read! 

[top10 position=”8″ bookname=”Raising Boys” authorname=”Steve Biddulph” publisher=”Celestial Arts” pages=”224″ amazonusa=”158761328X” amazonuk=”0007153694″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

Raising Boys is the fantastic book written by award-winning psychologist Steve Biddulph. It offers parents guidance on the unique development process of boys. Biddulph writes in a gentle and engaging tone and his advice is friendly and funny. For mothers this offers insightful information into the differences between boys and girls, and for fathers it offers a more engaging way to communicate with your son. Some of the things described in this book will have you laughing and crying, but one thing that is certain is after reading Raising Boys you will defiantly feel more fulfilled. This a wonderful book for women to read as it not only helps those on the path of mother hood but also gives women a peek into the male psyche.

[top10 position=”7″ bookname=”Playful Learning: Develop Your Child’s Sense of Joy and Wonder” authorname=”Mariah Bruehl” publisher=”Roost Books” pages=”272″ amazonusa=”1590308190″ amazonuk=”1590308190″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

 

Mariah Bruehl tells you that your child is full of potential in her brilliant book Playful Learning. Only published in 2011, this book offers a very modern perspective on parenting and assures you that your child is eager to learn and process information from the day they are born. Bruehl puts all of her experience as a teacher into this easy-to-read and fun book, creating engaging exercises that will help to push your child as they learn. Bruehl explains in a very concise way, how your child learns and then offers the perfect creative solution that will aid you in helping your child’s development. Not only is this book great for parents, but it is also a massive help to any parents thinking of homeschooling. Bruehl’s suggestions a simple and very easy to incorporate into home life, making Playful Learning a great, insightful read. A wonderful book.

[top10 position=”6″ bookname=”The Baby Sleep Solution” authorname=”Suzy Giordano and Lisa Abidin” publisher=”Perigee Trade” pages=”17+” amazonusa=”0399532919″ amazonuk=”0399532919″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

Imagine the scene: it is 3am, your baby is bawling his/her eyes out, you haven’t slept in what feels like months and you have an important meeting at work at 9am. Enter The Baby Sleep Solution. Suzy Giordano is something of a baby-whisperer and this book is the common sense approach to ending your sleepless nights. Giordano explains the reasons behind your baby’s restlessness, as well as offering a step by step plan of action to tackle the problems. The solution is simple, regular feeding times and making sure that your baby takes two naps a day. This will then ensure that your baby has 12 hours sleep a night. Unlike other parenting books, this has a regimented structure and means that in order for the Sleep Solution to be successful, you as a parent need to be disciplined. However, if you follow the easy instructions laid down in an incredibly accessible way this book will be a god send.

[top10 position=”5″ bookname=”The Essential First Year” authorname=”Penelope Leach” publisher=”DK Publishing” pages=”288″ amazonusa=”B00CF5ZZ4E” amazonuk=”1405336846″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

At number five in this best parenting books list is a must-read book for all first time parents. Penelope Leach utilises cutting-edge research and condenses it and de-tangles it to deliver a really accessible and innovative book. Leach’s tone is motherly and guides you through the information she presents, making it easy to learn about the processes your baby will go through. The Essential First Year covers all aspects of rearing a child and Leach explains the importance of listening to your baby for their brain development. Leach does not need to embellish her sympathetic and simplistic advice and the best part of this book is the fact the information is broken down into bite-sizeable chunks. A great read.

[top10 position=”4″ bookname=”Simplicity Parenting” authorname=”Kim John Payne” publisher=”Ballantine Books” pages=”256″ amazonusa=”0345507983″ amazonuk=”0345507983″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

It seems that in today’s never ending fast paced society, childhood has taken a back seat. Parents seem to spend more time working than looking after their children at home. Simplicity Parenting is the brilliant book by Kim John Payne that tackles modern society and the problems it cause for modern parenting. One of the most insightful pieces of advice centre around the media, with Payne suggesting that parents should limit the time their children spend getting bombarded by useless information on screens. Payne’s advice is universal and can be applied to kids of any age, making this book defiantly one for your bookshelf. Payne explains that we live in worlds where we over-clutter and in the end, the people this has the most impact on is our children. Simplicity Parenting states that if your children have carefully chosen books and toys they are more likely to use them, instead of having to navigate around an infinite number of choices. Payne never condescends, but instead manages to point out very common-sense ideas that can have huge benefits for family life. A very interesting take on a parenting book. A great read!

[top10 position=”3″ bookname=”The Five Love Languages of Children” authorname=”Gary Chapman” publisher=”Moody Publishers” pages=”224″ amazonusa=”0802403476″ amazonuk=”080247313X” amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

Gary Chapman states that there are five ways in which we give and receive love and uses this mantra to explain why children’s behaviours and attitudes fluctuate. The Five Love Languages of Children aims to bring you closer to the language of love that your child speaks and allow you to communicate a deep level of respect, commitment and affection that will help your child to grow. Chapman explains that each person communicates love in a different way, and that by tapping into the wavelength of your child’s love you can harbour a much stronger and much more fulfilling bond with that child. The language is accessible and simplistic, even if sometimes the theories are rather stretching, and Chapman’s conversational style makes this book a very easy read. This is a book that will not just help you and your child to form a strong bond, but the theories that Chapman marks out can be applied to any form of relationship in life.

[top10 position=”2″ bookname=”How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk” authorname=”Adele Faber” publisher=”Scribner” pages=”368″ amazonusa=”1451663889″ amazonuk=”1848123094″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

In her book, Adele Faber helps you to better understand the communication barrier that can exist between you and your child. Instead of scolding your child Faber explains how a simple change in language can turn chastising your child into an educational process, whereby your child feelings are not hurt. It does not neglect the need to discipline your children, but instead offers ways to discipline whilst remaining firm and not destroying yours and your child’s relationship. How To Talk So Kids Will Listen is not too dense and Faber cleverly offers accompanying illustrations to the scenario sections of her book, which make what could be a tiresome read rather enjoyable. A very deserving second place in any best parenting books list!

[top10 position=”1″ bookname=”Supernanny: How To Get The Best From Your Children” authorname=”Jo Frost” publisher=”Hyperion” pages=”224″ amazonusa=”1401308104″ amazonuk=”0340897767″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

 …Jo Frost reiterates things parents should already know in a friendly and reassuring manner, that lets parents know that they are not alone…

We have all seen Jo Frost in action and now for the first time her expert advice has found its way to print. Supernanny: How To Get The Best From Your Children is a brilliant book that lays out scenarios that have caused problems with you and your children and then offers a no-nonsense solution to resolve the dispute. She tackles the big issues from bed time to toilet time, Jo Frost takes on all the un-glamorous sides to being a parent and supports parents along the way. It is refreshing to see Frost’s experience being utilised in this text, as she draws on her time as Supernanny to deliver a really wonderful book. Unlike numerous doctors who write books containing airy-fairy theories, Frost uses a very down-to-earth approach that takes the skills she picked up during her TV series straight from screen to page. Jo Frost reiterates things parents should already know in an friendly and reassuring manner, that lets parents know that they are not alone. A fantastic must-buy book and worthy number one in this best parenting books list!

There are many parenting books out there, each documenting a multitude of different approaches. For parents who want to take a more ‘thinking’ approach to parenting then Nurtureshock: New Thinking About Children is the book for you. Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman tackle modern approaches to parenting and dispel myths such as why do children lie when they know it’s wrong? Written in an accessible way this is a really engaging read and pushes known strategies of parenting, helping you to adapt and expand your ideas. Another great read is by No. 2 on the list Adele Faber. Siblings Without Rivalry: How To Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Too is the book that tries to offer advice to stop siblings arguing. Faber goes right to the root of the problem and explains that within a functioning family, constantly arguing between siblings is not a “normal” problem. A really great read that will help any parent stuck in the middle of brothers and sisters at each other’s throats. All of the books that have appeared on this best parenting books list are great stepping stones for anyone thinking about starting a family, and hopefully they will allow you to find others that are similar that may expand the way you view parenting. Good luck!

Game Of Thrones Books

Ever since the Game Of Thrones TV series started, many people have become passionate fans of the mythical and epic world of the Game Of Thrones. The TV series is based on the A Song Of Ice And Fire book series that was written by American author George R. R. Martin.

How many Game Of Thrones books are there?

“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”

The series is composed of seven novels, starting with “A Game of Thrones” published in 1996. The series was originally planned as a trilogy, however, it has now been extended to seven books in total; two currently remain unwritten or unpublished with the sixth book “The Winds Of Winter” currently being completed. Often with years between completion of each book, and Martin frustratingly pushing back intended publication dates, fans of the series have been patiently waiting for a conclusion to the epic fantasy, the loyal fans of the series are testament to its quality and its status as sitting on the throne of the fantasy genre.

[top10 position=”Book 1″ bookname=”A Game Of Thrones: A Song of Ice and Fire” authorname=”George R.R. Martin” publisher=”Bantam” pages=”720″ amazonusa=”0553381687″ amazonuk=”0007428545″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

Martin’s first novel in the ‘A Song Of Fire And Ice’ series introduces us to a strange world of Kings, Queens, Knights, Lords, bastards, prostitutes and an Imp; all plotting, lusting or deceiving in an attempt to climb onto, or influence who will be next to sit on the ‘Iron Throne’ in King’s Landing, as King of the Seven Kingdoms. Inspired by Tolkien’s fantasy world, Martin portrays a far more adult world littered with sex, violence, corruption, even incest; topics other fantasy series’ before it have shied away from. Martin’s world is certainly not for the faint-hearted.

An opulent and at times bloody game of chess; where you are always one wrong move away from having your head on a spike.

Told in an unusual structure, each chapter switches the reader’s view of the novel to the perspective of a different character within the ‘Game Of Thrones’. Although strange at first, Martin can attribute a lot of the series’ success to this format as it allows the reader a wider, more rounded view of characters, as well as allowing so many character arcs and separate storylines to exist simultaneously, and successfully. ‘Game Of Thrones’ concentrates on three main stories: Firstly, and for the most of the first novel, the struggle and conflict between the Families all vying for a place on the Iron Throne: The Starks, Tullys, Lannisters and Baratheon. An opulent and at times bloody game of chess; where you are always one wrong move away from having your head on a spike. The second story follows the brotherhood of the Night’s Watch whose members are forced to sever all ties with the world in order to protect the kingdoms on ‘The Wall’, a giant structure in the far north of the kingdom that leaves the reader with more questions than answers: what terrors must lurk beyond such a vast barrier? The third story follows the travels of the few remaining members of the Targaryen family, and their alliance with a barbaric race named the Dothraki. Outcasts and apparent losers of the last overhaul of the Iron Throne they seek to return to what they believe is their rightful place back in the seven kingdoms.

With plenty of twists and turns, the lack of ‘happy’ endings and the adult content makes ‘Game Of Thrones’ far from a fairytale and feel as realistic as a fantasy novel could possibly be. 9/10

[top10 position=”Book 2″ bookname=”A Game Of Thrones: A Clash of Kings Book” authorname=”George R.R. Martin” publisher=”Bantam” pages=”784″ amazonusa=”0345535413″ amazonuk=”0007447833″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

The second instalment of Martin’s series: ‘A Clash Of Kings’, begins where the first thrilling book left off, detailing the civil war between families all eager to stake their claim for a place on the Iron throne no matter what it’s price in blood may be. We continue to follow the Night’s Watch who travel north of the wall to deal with wildling unrest and whatever evil may arrive to threaten the kingdom with winter, as well as Daenerys Targaryen’s quest to return to rule the seven kingdoms. Although initially slower paced than the gripping first instalment, the novel’s two defining qualities are Martin’s theme of deception, and his unrivalled ability to write believable and enthralling battles. The multiple perspective format adds a needed depth and subjectivity to characters allowing Martin to blur the lines between good and evil, always leaving the reader with questions, desperate to read on. The battles depicted in fantasy novels can often leave the reader feeling deflated and bored; Martin’s succeed where these fail. Packed with blood and emotion, the battles are depicted for adults in the same way the sex scenes are, well written and much more than just gore and death.

With the addition of the supernatural and dragons, believed to be extinct in the world, Martin’s second effort manages to more than live up to the reputation gained from ‘A Game Of Thrones’. 8/10

[top10 position=”Book 3″ bookname=”A Game Of Thrones: A Storm of Swords” authorname=”George R.R. Martin” publisher=”Bantam” pages=”1008″ amazonusa=”0345543971″ amazonuk=”0007447841″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

At almost 1500 pages long, ‘A Storm Of Swords’ continues to depict the power-struggle for the Iron Throne between the challengers. The third book sees an increase in supernatural threat and influence on the story, as well as the usual, unpredictable plot twists that make the series so captivating. The stark children, whose perspective many chapters are written from, are leading their own separate struggles within the kingdoms, and the conflict in the far north of the wall between the Night’s Watch and Wildlings takes some surprising turns as Martin continues his fantasy series. Characters are developed to arguably their devious best as Martin writes with the kind of realism that will make the reader shiver with the cold mention of Winterfell, while managing to keep the stories very human as oppose to some fantasy novels over-saturated with magic and non-human creatures. Martin is selective enough in use of magic and other creatures, to allow the reader to connect to the characters rather than having an overworked imagination that has little belief in the events or characters portrayed. Fans argue it is the best instalment in the series; they have a strong case to argue – 9/10

[top10 position=”Book 4″ bookname=”A Game Of Thrones: A Feast For Crows” authorname=”George R.R. Martin” publisher=”Bantam” pages=”784″ amazonusa=”0553582038″ amazonuk=”0007447868″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

‘A Feast For Crows’ has been described by many critics and fans as the weakest in the series, which is testament to the quality of the series as the novel is far from a failure. With the war between kings, for the Iron Throne in King’s Landing coming to a conclusion of sorts, there is less of the violent and epic battles Martin fans are accustomed to as many plots have found a kind of resting place. This instalment leans towards setting the scene for the following book rather than conflict, with many characters you would like to hear from missing from the chapters. Martin uses this book to allow characters a lull in the violence slightly, giving them time to manoeuvre their chess pieces into place ready for their next strike. Although weaker, the defamation of ‘A Feast For Crows’ by fans and critics is due to the success of previous efforts, with events holding as much importance in the unravelling of the story as battles and deception in the previous books. 6/10

[top10 position=”Book 5″ bookname=”A Dance with Dragons Book” authorname=”George R. R. Martin” publisher=”Bantam” pages=”1152″ amazonusa=”0553582011″ amazonuk=”0007466064″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

‘A Dance With Dragons‘ worryingly for fans of the series, took Martin six years to complete, and with its numerous storylines, plots and sub-plots may lead fans to worry that Martin may be in danger of not being able to tie-up all created loose ends in the final two books. While ‘A Feast For Crows’ may have been considered the weakest of Martin’s previous efforts by many critics and fans of the series, ‘A Dance With Dragons’ silenced critics with superbly crafted plots of political deception and manoeuvring, balanced perfectly with fantasy elements such as magic and dragons, as well as the usual sex and violence. Frustratingly for fans, ‘A Dance With Dragons‘ ends with several long-term characters’ fate hanging in the balance; with so long between instalments many fans only negative comments surrounding the series revolve around the anticipation and wait for the next book to be published. 7/10

[top102 position=”Book 6″ bookname=”A Game Of Thrones: The Winds of Winter” authorname=”” publisher=”” pages=”” amazonusa=”” amazonuk=”” amazonca=”” amazonimg=” ]

The long-awaited follow-up, ‘The Winds Of winter’ has no publication date as of yet, with Martin unwilling anger fans by pushing any date back if needs be. Martin has however confirmed that main characters missing from ‘A Dance With Dragons’ will return. The cliffhangers from the two previous books were caused by Martin having to omit some chapters, that he has confirmed will be the basis for ‘The Winds Of Winter’ promising resolutions and the battles all fans found lacking in the previous instalment to happen early in latest novel. With only a few sample chapters read by Martin at conventions, or published on his website, fans have again been left hanging by the master of suspense, who will no doubt once again have us second guessing characters’ every move upon the books release.

[top102 position=”Book 7″ bookname=”A Game Of Thrones: A Dream Of Spring” authorname=”” publisher=”” pages=”” amazonusa=”” amazonuk=”” amazonca=”” amazonimg=” ]

At the moment ‘A Dream Of Spring’ will be the conclusion to  George R. R. Martin’s ‘A Song Of Ice And Fire’ series, although would surprise no one familiar with the series if there is an extension to the series that has already seen numerous novellas and related works published. The strength of the series has been complex plots and numerous perspectives, but in the latter books fans are beginning to question whether these storylines and plots will all be tied up, if there simply aren’t enough pages for Martin to find a fitting conclusion, or whether Martin can bear to be without the series he began sixteen years ago. With years between publication the only thing we know for sure is fans will wait with intrigue for the supposed conclusion to the battle for the Iron Throne, anxiously awaiting the final twists and turns, until the final word of Martin’s masterpiece.

Books like Game Of Thrones

Here are a few other fantasy titles that fans of the Game Of Thrones series may also enjoy while waiting for the release of the concluding books.

Acacia: The War with the Mein – David Anthony Durham: Now completed, the Acacia Trilogy rivals Game Of Thrones for grit, as well as having a brilliant premise and plot. Worth investigation by any fan looking for something to read while Martin completes his series.

Shadowmarch – Tad Williams: With similar themes to the ‘A Song Of Ice And Fire’ series, the Shadowmarch series may interest fans as it contains one element that ‘A Song Of Fire And Ice’ does not: It has a conclusion as a finished series.

The Darkness That Comes Before (The Prince of Nothing series) – Scott Bakker: Bakker creates a fantasy world that can truly rival Tolkien or Martin in the ‘Prince Of Nothing series’. The first instalment of a trilogy, ‘The Darkness That Comes Before’ takes place in a world saturated with the dark magic intermittently portrayed in ‘A Song Of Ice And Fire’.

Best Romance Books

I am sure I am not alone in thinking that a great romance is intrinsic to a great novel and a great author is someone who can make you fall madly in love with a character and create romantic idols for generations of readers. Here is my list of the best romance books composed of the top 10 modern and not-so-modern romance books. Be warned: there isn’t a Jane Austen novel in sight!

[top10 position=”10″ bookname=”One Day” authorname=”David Nicholls” publisher=”Vintage” pages=”448″ amazonusa=”0307946711″ amazonuk=”0340896981″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

 

“Whatever happens tomorrow, we had today and I’ll always remember it.” 

One Day was THE book of 2011 and a must in my list of the best romance books. People would be reading it on the train, in the hairdresser’s, at the gym… The great success of the Starter for Ten author’s third novel lies in the fact that it appeals to both men and women equally. The story begins on 15th July 1988 when two students, the handsome, rich playboy Dexter and the studious, acerbic northerner Emma meet and charts their unlikely friendship over the next twenty years, revisiting them on that very same day. It is the ultimate “will-they-won’t-they” love story and both characters, despite numerous flaws are ultimately loveable and you long for them to be given a happy ending. Nicholls provides plenty of laughs along the way, courtesy of the wonderfully sharp dialogue between Dexter and Emma and the shrewd observations of post-university life. This is a great, easy read which would be perfect for fans of Nick Hornby.

[top10 position=”9″ bookname=”Jane Eyre” authorname=”Charlotte Brontë” publisher=”Wilder Publications” pages=”328″ amazonusa=”160459411X” amazonuk=”1853260207″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

 

“Every atom of your flesh is as dear to me as my own: in pain and sickness it would still be dear.” 

The first Brontë novel on my list is everything that a romantic novel should be- melodramatic, gothic and bittersweet. After a miserable childhood at the mercy of her Aunt and the strict regime at Lowood School, orphaned Jane Eyre finds herself living at Thornfield Hall, working as a governess for Mr Rochester’s daughter. Before she knows it, Jane falls for her gruff but alluring employer. However the course of true love does not run smooth and she discovers that Mr Rochester has not left his past altogether behind him. This book has always appealed to me because it was one of the first novels to have such a feisty heroine. Every obstacle and sadness she encounters only makes her more determined in life. She is a lonely girl who is striving to love and be loved but is full of self-respect and ambition. If you were ever forced to read this at school, give it another go and you won’t be disappointed.

[top10 position=”8″ bookname=”Birdsong” authorname=”Sebastian Faulks” publisher=”Vintage” pages=”496″ amazonusa=”0679776818″ amazonuk=”0099387913″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

“I am driven by a greater force than I can resist. I believe that force has its own reason and its own morality even if they may never be clear to me while I am alive.”

The subtitle of the book, “A tale of love and war” emphasises the two main themes interwoven throughout this heart-wrenching novel. Stephen Wraysford’s life is turned upside down after a passionate affair with the married Frenchwoman Isabelle Azaire and the onslaught of the First World War. Will he be able to find his way back to the woman he loves? Faulks’ powerful descriptions of  the atrocities witnessed by the young men in the trenches is contrasted with the later story of Stephen’s granddaughter,who tries to understand more about his life by reading his old  journals in the 1970s. The haunting narrative will have a profound effect on you long after you have finished reading.

[top10 position=”7″ bookname=”Never Let Me Go” authorname=”Kazuo Ishiguro” publisher=”Vintage” pages=”304″ amazonusa=”0307740994″ amazonuk=”0571258093″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

“It had never occurred to me that our lives, which had been so closely interwoven, could unravel with such speed.” 

The narrator, Kathy, remembers her life at Halisham School and her childhood friendship with Ruth and Tommy. They were kept within the walls of the school and encouraged to take care of their health above all else and encouraged to express themselves through art. Yet there is a constant sense of foreboding that lingers over them. The reality is that they are all clones who have been raised to be organ donors and the only way to prolong their fate is if they can prove that they are in love with someone. The cloning back story is not explained within the book, which adds to the sinister atmosphere and Kathy as a narrator is oddly cold and resigned. Although you sense that the ending won’t be particularly happy, you can’t resist wanting to get there as soon as possible.

[top10 position=”6″ bookname=”Possession” authorname=”A.S. Byatt” publisher=”Vintage ” pages=”576″ amazonusa=”0679735909″ amazonuk=”0099800403″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

“I cannot let you burn me up, nor can I resist you. No mere human can stand in a fire and not be consumed.” 

Possession follows two modern-day academics that begin by studying Victorian poets and end up accidentally becoming amateur sleuths along the way, uncovering a love affair between the objects of their research that history had long forgotten. As they discover more, could love blossom closer to home? Byatt embellishes this enchanting story through letters and poems sent between the Victorian lovers, which some readers may find disrupts the narrative but can be greatly rewarding in their own right. This is a multi-layered novel that would benefit from being read over and over again.

[top10 position=”5″ bookname=”The English Patient” authorname=”Michael Ondaatje” publisher=”Everyman’s Library” pages=”296″ amazonusa=”0307700879″ amazonuk=”0747572593″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

“I’ll be looking at the moon, but I’ll be seeing you.” 

At number five in this best romance books list is The English Patient, yet another book that proves that war provides the perfect backdrop for a winning love story. This is the tale of a group of people hiding out in an Italian monastery in the final days of the Second World War. Hana is nursing her last remaining patient, who has been severely burned and disfigured in a plane crash. On his death-bed, the eponymous patient (who it actually turns out is Hungarian) recounts his tragic love affair with a married woman. Kip, the Sikh bomb disposal expert becomes friends with the patient and in doing so also gets closer to Hana. The narrative is not chronological but rather built up through many layers and we learn more and more about each character through a series of described incidents. Ondaatje’s beautiful prose should be savoured and will leave you stunned.

[top10 position=”4″ bookname=”Atonement” authorname=”Ian McEwan” publisher=”Anchor” pages=”368″ amazonusa=”038572179X” amazonuk=”0099429799″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

 

“Find you, love you, marry you, and live without shame.” 

Young Briony Tallis is a middle-class girl growing up n the 1930s who dreams of being a playwright when she is older. One day her overactive imagination causes her to make a terrible mistake and she accuses the charwoman’s son, Robbie, of the rape of her cousin Lola. Robbie is deeply in love with Briony’s older sister Celia and despite his being sent to France to fight during the Second World War, they are determined to be together again one day. Atonement is a deeply moving tale about how one action can alter the course of fate and a young girl’s struggle to overcome the guilt of her betrayal and atone for her mistake. The final twist comes as quite a shock, so ensure that you don’t forget the tissues.

[top10 position=”3″ bookname=”The Great Gatsby” authorname=”F.Scott Fitzgerald” publisher=”Scribner” pages=”192″ amazonusa=”0743273567″ amazonuk=”185326041X” amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

“Reach me a rose, honey and pour me a last drop into that there crystal glass.”

An American classic that has not aged a bit since it was published in 1925. This is the fable of the American dream and an ill-fated love story of poor boy that fell head-over-heels for a rich beauty. The novel is set in Long Island during the jazz-age. The handsome and aloof Jay Gatsby throws lavish parties for guests all summer long, in the hope of attracting Daisy Buchanan, an old flame who has continued to pursue. But there is something mysterious about the great Gatsby and there are too many lives entangled in their affair. Sooner or later someone will get hurt. The luxurious prose offers a fascinating insight into the superficiality of the golden age of glamour and the rottenness at its core.

[top10 position=”2″ bookname=”The Pursuit of Love” authorname=”Nancy Mitford” publisher=”Vintage” pages=”240″ amazonusa=”0307740811″ amazonuk=”0141044012″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

“Always either on a peak of happiness or drowning in black waters of despair they loved or they loathed, they lived in a world of superlatives.” 

This is a stand-out book on the list in that first and foremost The Pursuit of Love is very, very funny. Set in the interwar period, we follow the lives and loves of the eccentric aristocratic Radlett family, which is clearly heavily based on the notorious Mitford sisters own exploits. The Radlett girls’ aim in life was to marry and The Pursuit of Love focuses specifically on Linda’s search for love as she lurches from doomed love affair to doomed love affair. This is told with Nancy Mitford’s trademark wicked sense of humour. The descriptions of family life at Alconleigh and Uncle Matthew’s (now) fabulously politically incorrect views and cynical world outlook are the stand out passages. This is definitely an uplifting read and a worthy runner-up in this best romance books list.

[top10 position=”1″ bookname=”Wuthering Heights” authorname=”Emily Brontë” publisher=”Harper Design” pages=”408″ amazonusa=”B008SLD5O6″ amazonuk=”0141044012″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

“He’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.” 

They develop an unshakeable bond that even traverses the boundary between life and death. There is no doubt that Wuthering Heights was ahead of its time.

Wuthering Heights has been my favourite book since I was 16 years old and I am yet to find another novel that has had such a profound and enduring effect on me. Yes, this is a love story above all else, but it is also a tale of passion, revenge, obsession and jealousy. When Cathy’s father brings home Heathcliff, the gypsy boy, the two children quickly become inseparable, roaming the moors together to avoid Cathy’s cruel older brother and the fanatic Christian servant, Joseph. They develop an unshakeable bond that even traverses the boundary between life and death. There is no doubt that Wuthering Heights was ahead of its time. There are elements of the supernatural and such shocking scenes of violence that it is fascinating to think how a parson’s daughter living in the remoteness of North Yorkshire could conjure up such things. Admittedly it does take a while to get used to Brontë‘s style and complex story telling but it is a rewarding novel with an optimistic conclusion and is a fitting ending to any best romance books list worth its salt.